In our first lesson on productivity, we talked about identifying your definite major purpose (as Napoleon Hill described it).[1] If you have a definite major purpose, you know what you are trying to accomplish. If you don’t, you can be productive without actually moving towards success.
This is what I mean: consider someone who’s trying to get to the Atlantic Ocean. If he is anywhere in North America, and he just keeps moving due east, he will hit the water eventually. The man in Atlanta, Georgia or Oxford, Mississippi will need to maintain this eastward movement longer than the man in Columbia, South Carolina, but the principle still stands: keep moving east, and you will eventually find water.
Unfortunately, in trying to be efficient, we let our activity trick us into thinking that we are being productive. We over-plan, we get really busy accomplishing our tasks, and we forget about our major goal in the process. We stopped moving east because we have to take care of this or that thing. Perhaps they are important things, but those other things are not getting us any closer to our actual goal. Those things might make us feel good, but unless it gets us closer to our goal, it takes us further from it (at least in time, if not in space).
In about two and a half hours, you can travel from Columbia to Myrtle Beach (152 miles). In about five and a half hours, you can travel from Atlanta to Myrtle Beach (362 miles). In about ten and a half hours, you can travel from Oxford Mississippi to Myrtle Beach (690 miles). All drivers will drive the same direction, but the driver from Oxford will get there faster than the driver from South Carolina if the former is focused and the latter is not. More driving will not get you there faster, but purposeful driving will. It is not more activity that is important. It is focused activity.

As Covey reminds us, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”[2] If you are looking to be productive—truly productive, not confusing motion with progress—you must always keep your primary goal in focus.

What About You?

What is your main thing? Answer immediately. If you can’t answer this immediately, it is likely that you don’t have the main thing and you need to stop and consider what it should be.


[1] Hill, N. (2012) Think and grow rich. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. (p. 92).
[2] Covey, S. R. (2005) The 8th habit: From effectiveness to greatness. New York: Free Press. (p. 160).